Over the past 20 or so years, Texas winemaking has made great strides. Instead of growing grapes that were popular but produced poor quality due to Texas growing conditions, they gravitated towards growing grapes that were more suited to the climate. As a result, quality of Texan wines have vastly improved.
Texas Wine Growing Country
Texas has two major AVAs:
- High Plains around Lubbock. This cooler region accounts for about 80 percent of Texas grapes—virtually all its whites and most of its reds. It is home to a few high volume wineries.
- Hill Country. Although it is by far the largest in the state covering 9 million acres, it currently accounts for only about 15 percent of the state’s total production. Even so, it is home to more than 100 mostly small production wineries. This is not surprising as the area is much more heavily populated and touristed than the Lubbock area. While most of these wineries rely primarily on the High Plains for grapes, most do grow some grapes—especially red Rhone, Spanish and Portuguese and a few Italian varietals—and are planting more.
The state also has other small growing regions that produce only small quantities of grapes, primarily for local consumption.
Texas Hill Country Wineries
We stopped at multiple wineries to see the progress they were making. Most have very pleasant tasting spaces where you can enjoy their wines and gather with friends. In alphabetical order, they are:
Adega Vinho Winery (Stonewall)
This 4,000 case winery produces some good wine. Among our favorites were:
- 2021 Rose of Rose made from Grenache and Tempranillo. It is dry but fruity.
- 2021 Viognier Reserve , which was our favorite of the tasting
- 2019 Touriga
- 2021 Branca Estate Reserve, a blend of Albarino and Arista, a Portugese grape
- 2021 Estate Tinta, a blend of Tinta Cao and Touriga Portuguese grapes.
AB Astris Winery (Stonewall)
We began with a Hill Country-grown white blend wine made from Clairette Blanche, Marsanne and Roussanne. They were pouring two Newsom Vineyard (High Plains) single varietal reds—2019 Tannat and 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon. Also of interest was a 2017 red blend of Malbec, Merlot, and Tannat.
Becker Vineyards (Stonewall)
Becker is one of the largest of the Hill County Wineries. Wee enjoyed five of the 15 wines we tasted—most of which are from High Plains fruit. These were the 2021 Viognier Reserve, 2020 Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Hill Country), 2020 Tempranillo, 2018 Ranger Hays (blend of Malbec, Petite Verdot, Mouvedre, Cabernet Franc and Tannat) and 2015 Malmsey Late Harvest Muscat that had residual sugar of 10 Brix. On previous visits we also enjoyed the Reserve Roussanne, Reserve Cabernet (which is grown in Texas’s much higher-altitude Western high country) and Raven (a Petite Verdot and Malbec blend).
Cicada Cellars (Stonewall)
This small 750 case winery purchases all its fruit (almost all of it from the High Plains) rather than growing any of its own. Of the wines we tasted, our favorite was the Blue Moon Tannat, an increasingly popular Texas Grape that appears to grow well in the High Plains.
Grape Creek Vineyards (Fredericksburg)
Of interest were its Cuvee Blanc made from Pinot Gris, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc and two Cabernet-based wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon Trois and Cabernet/Syrah blend.
Pedernales Cellars (Stonewall)
We most enjoyed wines from the two Texas grapes to which we generally tend to gravitate—Viognier (from the High Plains AVA) and Tempranillo (primarily from the Hill Country AVA). These in the form of a 2021 Viognier Reserve and a 2019 Tempranillo Reserve (with High Plains Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah. We compared the latter in a side-by-side with a 2021 High Plains Tempranillo Jovan which was harsh and showed little of the expressive fruit of the Tempranillo Reserve. On previous trips here we enjoyed the 2012 Albarino, 2011 Tempranillo Reserve, 2010 Family Reserve (a Tempranillo blend) and 2012 Muscat.
Sandy Road Vineyards (Johnson City)
The winemaker at this small 1,200 case winery is the former winemaker at two larger wineries (Ron Yates and Spicewood Vineyards). We tasted five interesting wines.
- 2021 White Rhone Blend of Marsanne and Roussanne (both from High Plains) that spent 12 months on primarily neutral French oaks and ander-went 100 percent malolactic fermentation
- A crisp, dry, 2021 Estate Sangiovese Rose that spent 4 months in neutral French oak;
- A fun 2022 Estate GSM “Petnat” Sparkling Rose that was made shortly after harvest. It had a quick press and fast fermentation that is stopped before it was complete. It was then bottled, capped, and allowed to warm up enough to finish fermentation in the bottle.
- 2020 Estate Sangiovese
- 2020 Estate Tempranillo
Siboney Cellars (Johnson City)
We found favor with several High Plains-based reds: 2020 Malbec (a complex, chewy red that spent 26 months in primarily new French oak), 2019 Travis GSM and 2021 MSG.
Texas Wine Collective (Fredericksburg)
The Collective represents wines from three wineries (Lost Oak, Brennan and McPherson) from three different Texas regions (Fort Worth, Comanche and Lubbock, respectively).
Eating in Fredericksburg
We’ve eaten at the Cabernet Grill in Fredericksburg,
We’ve eaten several times at the pretty Texas steakhouse Cabernet Grill. On our 2023 stop we began with an amuse bouche of Ancho carrot soup and proceeding to two main courses. The Lobster (frozen)-topped Chicken Fried Ribeye Steak with green chile cream gravy was fun to try once, but not for a steady diet). It had a side of very tasty chipotle sweet potato mash. Joyce was pleased with her grilled shrimp with chile sweet corn grits, herb oil and roast tomatoes. The restaurant has an impressive, very low-mark-up list of wines from Hill Country vintners.
On a previous trip, the two men in our group partook in ritual big, juicy ribeye steaks with a wasabi merlot sauce and maple chipotle sweet potato mash. The women had fish: pan seared Rainbow Trout stuffed with roasted tomatoes, asiago cheese, fresh herbs and applewood smoked bacon, topped with pecan brown butter sauce, and coconut crusted shrimp with five pepper glace and pickled red onion jalapeno slaw. But since entrees (even big ones) are never sufficient when exploring a new restaurant, we had to try the house salad andpecan crusted crab cake appetizers. And since the chicken frying of all types of unanticipated dishes seems to be a Texas tradition, we simply couldn’t pass up a chance to try the Chicken Fried Pecan Pie with white chocolate ice cream. Overall, it was a very good, not to speak of very filling meal.
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